The Jovial Miller

In Mansfield Library are some typed notes of various folk songs recorded by a Malcolm Seymour of Mansfield. They record local legends and stories. The following summarises a well known story of Sir John Cockle and how a miller came to his knighthood:

“ I am a Jovial miller, And in Mansfield I do twell, My name is Sir John Cockle, And my story I will tell

One night, as I lay in my bed, A knock came at the door, And there I spied a traveller, And he was tired and sore,

“Pray enter Sir” I said to him, “And Pray you take a seat.” And I’ll bring you a jug of ale; And venison to eat,

“Pray tell me, miller where you got this venison so grand,” Say I “It is the King’s own deer,  And the finest in all the land”And at this the man drew out his sword, And I fear did not stand. Says he “Twis well you tremble, knave, Know you not who I am?”

And then he cast aside his clock, And then laid down his sword. “Now, miller, know you who I am? O am your  soverign Lord!”

Then I feel down on bended knee. “O sire, pardon me!” Says he, “For having slain my deer,  ‘Tis hanged you should be.”

“Yet you were kind, and took me in. Reward shall you be. What is your name? “ John Cockle, Sire.” “Then Sir John henceforth you’ll be”

What I have told you is the truth, How I became Sir John, So, friends, bring me a pot of ale, For my story’s done.”

It is said the King was Henry II and that his family was given £300 a year and John was appointed the Overseer to Sherwood Forest. A 17th century manuscript is perhaps the first to record the legend in ‘A pleasant ballad of King Henry II and the Miller of Mansfield’ In the 18th century a satirical play was written by a Robert Dodsley called the King and the Miller of Mansfield which was performed at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, London. It even spawned a sequel called ‘Sir John Cockle at Court’. The legend of course gave its name to King’s mill in Mansfield, where it is though that the mill stood on what is now the north eastern end of the reservoir. The story is remembered in the King and Miller pub in Sutton in Ashfield of course.

The author is preparing a book on Nottinghamshire folklore. Any correspondence on this matter is greatly received.  Please comment below if you can help.


Seymour, M., (undated) Sir John Cockle

Mayfield, P (1979) Legends of Nottinghamshire

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